A book that offers convincing historical and environmental thinking.

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The Nature of Man, Life and Humanity

WHY WE MUST...HOW WE CAN CHANGE THE WAY WE LIVE

A comprehensive survey of human history—which reveals a grave ecological predicament—suggests that reconnection with nature and redirection of technology could create a new, sustainable lifestyle.

“Somewhere along the way we lost sight of what it means to be human,” Stadtmiller (Electronics, 2003, etc.) laments in this book. In the search for an ever more convenient lifestyle, humanity introduced a false dichotomy between technology and nature, according to the author. Life should not be a contest against nature, he contends, but a partnership with it—with technology acting as a force for good rather than an instigator of pollution. As the title suggests, the book comprises three sections. The first is nothing less than a thorough, lucid tour through human history, from the Big Bang through the space race and the ascendancy of computers—quite an achievement in 170 pages. The author zeros in on human evolution: tool use, brain power, hunter-gatherers, and the rise of civilizations and religions. His short synopses of Christianity and Islam are especially helpful. In Part II, he considers the keys to life on Earth—energy, clean air and water, and biodiversity—and how these are changed through human action. For instance, he clearly and forthrightly sets out evidence for climate change in Chapter 10. The final section emphasizes the necessity of getting back to a “Native Earth Society” based on simplicity and respect for nature. His case for cutting consumption is not only environmental, but also monetary. The information about energy ratings and usage is perhaps overly technical for laypeople, but tips for ensuring appliances are as efficient as possible are straightforward. The advice embraces a continuum of radicalism: yes, some may cycle or carpool, the book acknowledges, but those who commute alone by automobile can still be environmentally conscious by checking tire pressure regularly, using cruise control, etc. A pleasant late section of the memoir relates how Stadtmiller’s early nature connection was developed at his grandparents’ Pennsylvania farm. His image of a future society—especially zero population growth—may seem too good to be true, yet he gives achievable steps for working toward one’s ideals.

A book that offers convincing historical and environmental thinking.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 407

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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